Sitting picturesque alongside the Hozu River in the Arashiyama district of Kyoto is the Suiran. Launched in April this year, the property occupies part of the grounds of the sacred Tenryu-ji Temple, a World Heritage Site and home to one of the earliest Zen gardens that still retains its original form after several centuries.
The Suiran offers a window into its ancient past as an imperial villa by restoring some historical sites that now make up the entrance and main restaurant of the hotel. The guestrooms, designed in the traditional ryokan style, bridge the past with today's modern comforts.
When I arrived at the Suiran in the dead of Japan's summer, a typhoon had just hit a few days before, turning the usually tranquil and emerald green coloured Hozu river into rapids of murky brown. Thankfully, the hotel isn't just about its riverside locale and is also surrounded by the splendid verdure of the Arashiyama hills.
Kyoto and the Arashiyama district in particular is known for its remarkable seasonal beauty: shifting colours of cherry blossoms in spring, glistening white in winter, orange hues in autumn and lush green in summer. Combine this with 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than 1,600 buddhist temples, and some 400 shinto shrines, and it's no wonder that Kyoto has taken the top position for the 2nd year running in Travel + Leisure's annual World's Best Cities list. In some ways, Kyoto is still trying to catch up with the demand from non-Japanese travelers, but it has been aided with a steady influx of luxury international hotel chains such as the Ritz Carlton and in time to come — the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. However, only Starwood Hotels & Resorts's Suiran is located in Arashiyama, which makes it the ideal luxury boutique accomodation sited amidst Kyoto's most important landmarks, many of which are just minutes away by foot.
It was a delight to be able to stroll leisurely through the wistful bamboo groves, zen out in the gardens of the Tenryu-ji Temple, eat my weight in the region's tofu delicacies at Yudofo Sagano, and just potter back for a late afternoon tea at Saryo Hassui, Surian's café overlooking the river. Coffee lovers will be happy to know that while Kyoto is famed for its tea ceremonies, specialty coffee is also on the rise. For this, you just need to take a two-minute walk and pop into % Arabica's latest outpost located just a stone's throw away.
Take your pick of either a deluxe room or a suite, ranging from 500 to 1,000 square feet. Deluxe rooms on the ground floor come with a small open-air bath filled with natural spring water known for its skin softening qualities so you can have a personal onsen experience. If your room comes without an outdoor bath, simply book one of the two private treatment rooms that come equipped with a bath and a host of Japanese-style treatments.
While the surrounding vistas of the Surian are majestic, you won't get much of a view from your room especially if you're on the first floor. The walls are built high to provide the privacy needed for you to take an outdoor bath, but this means you'll need to leave the grounds or head to the café to really take in the natural surrounds. Life in Arashiyama pretty much shuts down by 6pm too, so it's a 30-minute train ride or 15-minute taxi into Gion or central Kyoto for nightlife and more dinner options. But if you only have a night or two to spare and relaxation is foremost in your mind, you'll be well placed to enjoy the peaceful ambience, breathe in the fresh forest air, and make the most of the Suiran's amenities.
Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel. Saga-Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku,12 Susukinobaba-cho, Kyoto Japan